The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), lead implementer of the Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa Phase Two (YIIFSWA-II), organized and hosted the project’s third annual review and planning meeting from 25 to 28 February 2019 in Accra, Ghana. The objective of the meeting was to review and discuss the project’s achievements in the previous implementation year as well as plan activities and the budget for implementation in 2019.
The welcome remarks were made by the representative of the Ghanaian Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Dr Felicia Ansah-Amprofi, Director of Plant Protection and Regulatory Services (PPRSD). In her opening remarks, she welcomed dignitaries and participants on behalf of the Minister of Food and Agriculture of Ghana. She informed the participants of the meeting that the profile of yam is growing nationally in Ghana, and as result of its socioeconomic importance, it was included in the transformative campaign “planting for food and jobs” in Ghana. She stated that, “Yam was included in the priority crops of Ghana because of enormous potential and substantial foreign exchange to Ghana and improving the incomes of smallholders.”
In closing she urged the participants to work extra hard during the meeting stating, “We are here to carry out an annual review and planning for a very important project. I believe our gathering here forms part of our seed agenda to build a system that is resilient, competitive, and sustainable. Therefore, I urge you all to work extra hard during these four days here…I welcome you again on behalf on my Honorable Minister and wish you a pleasant stay.”
In the official Opening remarks, Deputy Director, IITA West Africa, Michael Abberton who represented the Director for West Africa Dr Robert Asiedu, applauded the effort and commitment put in by partners to ensure the sustainability of the project, which will eventually translate to smallholder famers. He therefore encouraged all to put in their best efforts to ensure the success of the meeting and declared the workshop open.
The meeting was also attended by distinguished dignitaries including Engr Prof Simon Irtwange, Acting National President of the National Association of Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers (NAY-FPM) and Prof Joseph Ukpabi, Executive Director of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) who give Goodwill messages. Also participating were Dr Sunday Aladele, Chief Executive Officer of the National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB); Mrs Perpetua Iyere-Usiahon, Yam Desk Officer, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in Nigeria; Mr George Prah, Root and Tubers Desk Officer, Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA); and Mr Tony Sikpa, Acting CEO at the Federation of Association of Ghanaian Exporters (FAGE) in Ghana.
Participants were from IITA, Context, SAHEL Capital, the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), Federal Ministry Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Crop Research Institute (CSIR-CRI), Savannah Agricultural Research Institute (CSIR-SARI), and the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD).
Nine seed companies also took part in the meeting, two of which are owned and managed by women. The seed companies have expressed interest and are engaged in project activities geared towards equipping them for commercial seed yam production and distribution. The seed companies from Nigeria are Biocrops Biotechnology Limited, Da-Allgreen Seeds Limited, Nwabudo Agro Seeds Limited, PS Nutraceuticals International Limited, and Strategic Seeds Nigeria limited. The seed companies from Ghana are D Invitro, Fosuah Food Chain, Hikma farms, and Savanna Yam Exchange.
Project achievement in 2018
The advancement of the project into the next three years of implementation depended on IITA successfully demonstrating the feasibility of producing large volumes of seed using the high ratio propagation technologies (HRPTs) developed in the first phase. IITA successfully produced 45,030 breeder plantlets, established 5.4 ha of land with single node vine cuttings, and harvested 73,742 basic seed tubers from 2.7 ha.
IITA amply supplied seed companies and institutions with pre-basic nuclear stocks to populate their HRPTs, i.e., Aeroponics systems and Temporary Immersion Bioreactors systems for basic seed yam production. Several tons of foundation seed tubers were also given to the seed companies for the production of certified seed tubers. Correspondingly, the technical staff members of the seed companies were trained on the management of the aeroponics system for the successful development of plants to produce single node vines seedlings for basic seed production.
The seed companies in Nigeria established 142 demonstration trials in 2018 to train out-growers on seed production using the adapted yam minisett technique for seed yam production with the support of IITA and Context/Sahel.
Also, YIIFSWA-II in collaboration with the seed sector regulatory agencies in Nigeria and Ghana reviewed and updated yam quality standards and certification procedures that were established during the first phase of the project for implementation in 2019.
Project workplan for 2019
After successfully demonstrating to the seed companies the feasibility of using HRPTs for commercial seed production, development of the yam seed sector in Ghana and Nigeria will now begin in earnest. YIIFSWA-II will be focusing efforts towards establishing sustainable supply of early generation seeds (EGS) or planting materials to cater for the supply of certified seed tubers to contribute to farmers’ increased use of quality seed of improved varieties.
IITA will be supporting NRCRI, CSIR-CRI, and CSIR-SARI with the establishment of Temporary Immersion Bioreactor Systems (TIBS) to boost the production of breeder seed yam plantlets in Nigeria and Ghana. IITA will also be providing nuclear stock for populating the newly established TIBS in the countries.
The five established seed companies in Nigeria will embark on seed production research to enhance their capacity in using technologies’ foundation and commercial seed yam production with support from IITA and Context. Seed companies in Nigeria and Ghana will also establish ware yam demonstration trials to promote the superiority of the improved varieties championed by the project. Context/Sahel will be working with the NARIs and new seed companies in Ghana and Nigeria to develop robust business plans to ensure the sustainability of their production systems.
EGS production requires quality assurance by skilled and trained staff of regulatory agencies. Due to the novelty of the technologies involved in seed production, the project will work extensively on establishing certification and accreditation standards and procedures as well as seed purity standards. Technical and regulatory staff will also be trained on yam diagnostics and virus indexing for quality assurance.
Participants of the annual meeting also visited, on the fourth day, the largest private tissue culture facility (D Invitro) in West Africa.
For more information watch out for the project’s newsletter on the 4-day meeting and excursion to the largest tissue culture laboratory in West Africa.